|Posted on March 20, 2013 at 9:20 AM|
Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald
Zelda Fitzgerald, wife of infamous “Jazz Age” writer F.Scott Fitzgerald, was an exuberant woman—intelligent, witty, and impulsive—who shared the spotlight with her husband, making her a historical figure in her own right. But many times the true story of our most memorable historical figures gets lost as time progresses. For Zelda it seems that history has mythologized her as “the first flapper,” a mentally unstable party-girl, and not much more.
In Z, author Therese Anne Fowler offers readers an honest, deeply researched look at Zelda Fitzgerald’s intriguing life from all angles. This novel captivated me from the very first page, and I did not want to let go.
The story begins with Zelda meeting Scott for the very first time at a country club ballet recital (in which she is the lead) in her hometown, Montgomery, Alabama. From there the reader travels with the Fitzgeralds as Zelda narrates the ups and downs of their life together. Throughout, Fowler ambitiously and deftly brings other literary figures to life as Scott and Zelda encounter them: Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley, Ezra Pound, Dos Passos, Gertrude Stein, and others.
While reading I could almost hear Zelda’s southern drawl. And even as it faded slightly as Zelda moved and traveled far from her southern roots, her voice and character were still consistent and distinctive. And at every stage in her life—leaving behind her comfortable Alabama home for exciting New York City, her struggles with motherhood, arguments with her husband, her impulsive actions—Fowler draws the reader deeply into Zelda’s mind so that while we may not agree with her actions, we still can understand them and possibly relate.
An interesting aspect of the novel is Fowler’s incorporation of aspects of the feminist movement that would give women the right to vote. Related to this is Zelda’s grapple with professional ambition and the responsibilities of being a wife and mother in a time period that misunderstood—largely ignored—the female experience.
But even in the 1920’s, and even in the shadow of her husband’s talent and a battle with depression and anxiety, Zelda discovered her special gifts: she was a passionate painter, dancer, and writer, and loved their daughter with all her heart.
Z is an impressive body of work that is carefully crafted and well-researched. I give it my highest recommendation.
This book will be released on March 26th; I was given an advanced e-book copy from St. Martin’s Press through NetGalley.
Categories: Books/Book Reviews